Andor episode 10 featured some of the best acting performances we’ve ever seen in Star Wars.
We’ve become used to that in this series, as between Genevieve O’Reilly, Stellan Skarsgard, Diego Luna, Andy Serkis, and more the series has been packed with majestic performances, yet it’s hard to top the monologue delivered by Skarsgard’s Luthen Rael at the end of the episode. It’s not just terrific acting, but also terrific writing that captures Luthen better than anything else we’ve seen or heard. And in so doing, I think we see a great connection between Luthen and Kino Loy (played by an equally brilliant Serkis), and all of that foreshadows Cassian’s ultimate fate.
Toward the end of this episode, we learn that ISB agent Lonni Jung is actually a rebel spy, working with Luthen. But Lonni has had enough and is ready to get out of all of it, though Luthen – and the Empire – won’t let him. Lonni talks of all he has sacrificed for this rebellion, and he asks Luthen what he has sacrificed. To this, Luthen responds:
“Calm. Kindness. Kinship. Love. I’ve given up all chance at inner peace, I’ve made my mind a sunless space. I share my dreams with ghosts. I wake up every day to an equation I wrote 15 years ago from which there’s only one conclusion. I’m damned for what I do. My anger, my ego, my unwillingness to yield, my eagerness to fight, they’ve set me on a path from which there is no escape. I yearned to be a savior against injustice without contemplating the cost and by the time I looked down there was no longer any ground beneath my feet. What is my sacrifice? I’m condemned to use the tools of my enemy to defeat them. I burn my decency for someone else’s future. I burn my life to make a sunrise that I know I’ll never see. And the ego that started this fight will never have a mirror or an audience or the light of gratitude. So what do I sacrifice? Everything!”
It’s a great moment, and it captures Luthen’s character so well. We’ve seen him all season displaying some more radical sentiments of rebellion, especially in contrast with Mon Mothma. Luthen is far more comfortable with the loss of life, far more willing to affirm the need to drastic and violent action to spur on rebellion. In some ways, these actions do greatly help the larger cause… but at what cost? We’ve been discussing all season how the show is raising the question about how to fight against evil. It’s not just about fighting back; it matters how you do it. So even though both Luthen and Mothma are fighting back against the Empire, they have very different ways of doing so. Luthen’s flippancy with the loss of life is jarring – and it happens again in this episode. He’s willing to sacrifice a band of rebels for the sake of keeping his ISB mole alive and active. He views it as a net positive for the rebellion. Yet the reality is people will die.
It’s the same thing he discussed with Mothma earlier in the season. After the attack on Aldhani Mothma is aghast, knowing that people will suffer for it – and Luthen acknowledges that’s the plan. He wants that to happen, so that the Empire overreacts and so tightens their grip that people rebel. And he’s right! But again, at what cost? It is no surprise that in this episode about sacrifice, Mothma’s lone scene is about whether she will “sacrifice” her daughter’s future through an arranged marriage that she obviously hates, all for the sake of the “greater good.” We could understand it if she did, because Luthen’s been making decisions like that all season, yet if Mothma sacrifices her daughter’s future, then what’s she even fighting for?
Luthen acknowledges all of this in his answer to Lonni, saying that he was fighting and then realized there was no ground under his feet, damned to use the tools of his enemy to defeat them. He knows that he’s gone too far, knows that he’s sold his soul, knows that there are things he shouldn’t have done – yet he can’t stop. And his only solace is in knowing that his actions will contribute to a better galaxy, even if his aren’t emblematic of it. In perhaps the most poignant moment, he says, “I burn my decency for someone else’s future. I burn my life to make a sunrise that I know I’ll never see.” He’s sacrificing all of this while knowing that he won’t live to reap the benefits of it.
Which leads us to Kino Loy, because in this episode that’s exactly what he does. Kino steps up and leads a rebellion against the Imperial guards in the prison facility, including a stirring speech that rouses the men to climb. Yet upon climbing, Luthen confesses to Cassian that he can’t swim, seemingly leaving him no way out. Now, I’m going to assume something that isn’t explicit in the episode, but I’m guessing that Kino knew all along that the way out would probably involve swimming, and knew all along that he couldn’t swim, and therefore was willing to burn his life to make a sunrise he would never see.
Luthen and Kino are very different, yet both of them rise up to fight for a better future for others despite knowing they won’t actually be alive to enjoy it. That’s the tragic cost of war, and it’s highlighted by these men.
But it also foreshadows Cassian’s fate. We know where he winds up, in Rogue One, as he helps lead a team to Scarif to steal the Death Star plans – despite knowing that the odds aren’t great of them making it out of there alive. And sure enough, their mission is successful and they create a better future for the galaxy… but they are killed in the process. Cassian looks out over the ocean, with the sun shining and the cloud of destruction fast approaching, knowing he’s given the galaxy hope.
Luthen Rael and Kino Loy both demonstrated this kind of sacrifice, and Cassian Andor gets a chance later on to demonstrate the same. And the sunrise that Luthen knew he’d never live to see is just beginning to break over the horizon as Cassian’s life ends, with the Death Star plans in the hands of the rebels and the galaxy having hope.